Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Red Mtn A  -  13,908 feet
Post Date:  02/22/2012
Modified:  02/23/2012
Date Climbed:   02/18/2012
Posted By:  Mountain Ninja

 Winter Culebra - Too good to be true   

Winter Culebra – Too good to be true

Saturday, Feb. 18th, 2012
Group: 20 people total, mostly from, as well as legend Ken Nolan and his crew
Start: Ranch North HQ building, 9080’
Mileage: Culebra = 15.1 miles, Culebra + Red = 16.6 miles
Elevation Gain: Culebra = 5,370’, Culebra + Red = 6,400’

If you’ve ever considered hiking Culebra Peak, you may have secretly whined about the ranch fee. In winter, it’s currently $200. But let me tell you, that $200 was WORTH IT!

After speaking to the ranch folks, and after one inclement-weather reschedule, we got a date set for Saturday, Feb. 18. Most of us car-camped at the gate, some stayed at the San Luis Inn, a couple camped in their tent. The ranch was kind enough to grant my request for a 4:00am start (as opposed to their usual 6:00am start), and didn’t budge on our 6:00pm curfew. 14 hours… those of us not-so-fast hikers might have a chance at Red Mountain, too!

At about 3:15am, a few of us started our cars to get ‘em warmed up for a luxurious winter morning start. 4:00am came, Carlos cruised up in his sick Jeep and let us in the gate. And because he had plowed the road to the HQ building, we were able to drive there. AWESOME!

We then turned in our waivers and moolah, and were informed by Carlos that he had spent lots of his time the past few days packing the trail on his snowmobile, and was able to get all the way to the summer TH, for the first time ever! AWESOME!! Talk about first class service. Carlos rocks!

With a group of 20, it was unrealistic to stay together as one large group, especially since we didn’t hafta break trail like we’d thought. So, at our own paces, we set off from the HQ building around 4:30am.

Culebra’s ridge

Before we knew it, we were at “Four Way", and light filled the sky.

Four Way… more like Two Way today

(From here on out, I’ll state what time I hit certain points along the hike, as we were split up and some people were way faster, some slower)

I hit the end of the packed trail (the Summer TH) at 7:20am, and finally put on the snowshoes. Derek (Furthermore) was leading the group, I believe, at an inhuman rate. He decided to aim left (North East) and hit the ridge early, so we all followed his 'shoe tracks, making a couple small switchbacks up this slightly steeper angle.

Going Up! Photo: fepic1

Glancing back

I found myself gravitating towards following Ken Nolan, Dave “Crestoner”, and Russel “RWSchaffer”. We pushed on towards Pt 13,436’, our first “summit” goal, which offered a fantastic view of Culebra.

Honored to trudge behind Ken Nolan, heading up to Pt 13,436’

A cairn at the top of 13,436’

The summit is the more distant point to the left of what looks like the highest point

We headed over to the infamous Super Cairn, and I arrived at it at 9:20am. This cairn is no joke!

Heading over to the Super Cairn


Classic shot, less commonly seen snow-crusted!

After snapping some pics, we were excited to drop just over 100’ to the saddle, and get started on the push up to Culebra’s false summit. I ditched my snowshoes at the saddle, and a little behind Ken & friends at this point, used them as motivation to keep-a-movin’!

Aiming toward Culebra’s false summit. Ken & friends are about 2/3 up the initial slope.

Today was turning out to be a BEAUTIFUL day. I didn’t know that perfect weather was included in the $200 fee. Thanks, Cielo Vista Ranch! ;)

Almost to the false summit…

Ahh, the true summit! Rock ‘n roll, baby.

Culebra’s true summit, and Red Mtn on the right

I topped out on the “harmless snake” at 11:00am. Sweet! I was feelin’ good and ready to continue on to Red Mountain.

I didn't take a summit shot, but here’s a pic of a John (fepic1) and his friend Molly on the summit:

John & Molly on the summit! Photo: fepic1

It’s only .75 miles to Red, but with a 6:00pm curfew and just over 1,000’ of elevation gain to get over & back, I didn’t want to dilly dally.

The trip to Red, with a little bump in the middle of the ridge

Oh, and on my way down Culebra, one of the other faster hikers who was returning from Red told me between deep breaths, “This climb back up Culebra is a b**ch!”

The little bump and Red

Still behind Ken & friends… why am I the youngest and slowest??

The push up Red was over before I could say “Centennial,” and having just passed Ken & buddies towards the top, I had the summit all to myself, the last one on Red that day at 12:10pm.

Looking back at Culebra from the summit of Red

I thought of that returning hiker's elegant words; the final push back up to today’s 14er summit definitely took some gas.

Back up Culebra, taken from the little bump in the saddle

At 1:15pm, I was there, and snapped my required pic on the summit of one Colorado’s tallest… Which Wich!!

Free sandwich, comin’ right up!

I enjoyed the summit this time for about 10 minutes, fueled back up, and soaked in the gorgeous weather. Seriously, this was too easy.

Looking back to the high point of our perfect Saturday, now empty

The Super Cairn

The snake’s shadow made reclimbing Pt 13,436’ well worth it!

Hiking alone here, barely seeing my fellow hikers about half an hour ahead of me, I took advantage of some bodacious views.

Looking back up at 13,436’

Little Bear, Blanca, and Lindsey wave "congratulations!"

Following our defiled path back down to the summer TH, the trees show off some pretty shadows

I hadn’t needed my snowshoes again since before today’s peaks (thankfully), and was enjoying playing in the snow a little as I broke my own trail to the summer TH. Carlos was hanging out there with his daughter, checking up on the last of the group (me and one other hiker still coming back from Culebra). He is so nice, and really cared about our well-being. We chatted for a few minutes, and I started my hike back down the packed trail.

Thanks for your snowmobile work, Carlos! And sorry you got stuck so many times clearing the way for us!

About 2 miles before the HQ building, I somehow caught up to John (fepic1) and his friend Molly (a soon-to-be member!), and enjoyed their company back to the cars.

Catching up to John and Molly

Carlos drove his daughter back to the buildings, and then headed back up again to catch the last hiker of today’s successful group.

Carlos enjoying his machine

We made it back to the cars at 5:45pm, right when Carlos and the final hiker arrived as well. Awesome, dude! 15 minutes to spare

First class service on Colorado’s southern-most fourteener. I will never complain about the ranch’s fee again, as I realized step after step that it went to good use!

And to cap off the perfect day, John took Molly and me out to the tasty Mexican restaurant in San Luis for some chicken enchiladas that totally hit the spot. Thanks John!

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to several 14er finishers on this trip: Marmot72, ortegajv, and Furthermore!!

And thanks to all of you who came along and made this day memorable!!

Here’s a basic map of our route. Zoom in for more detail!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Congrats!     02/22/2012 20:38
So happy to see that you guys had great weather after the first date. Looks like a great climb, especially with Red added on. Love your photos of the Blanca group too!


Sweet TR     02/22/2012 20:50
What amazing weather! Awesome pics too! 8)


There's a harmless snake in my boots!     02/22/2012 21:07
Looks like you guys had as gorgeous a day up there as we did on La Plata! Cost aside, it looks like you definitely picked the right way to do Culebra...

I Man

Your plan...     06/20/2012 13:38
....was better than my plan. Next time


Awesome job!     02/22/2012 21:58
I wish I could have made it up! I'm somewhere between jealousy and rage.


Great work, Brad!     02/22/2012 22:09
...and an awesome day of weather! Couldnt have wished for anything better. I wish Rainie & I could have come that day. Hopefully, another time.


Weather     02/22/2012 22:16
Looks like you couldn't have asked for a better day. Congrats to all on what seems like the perfect winter ascent with a great group. Really wish I had gone on to Red the first time, but of course I was blinded by 14ers at the time and didn't even know what a centennial was

Sweet pics and report!


Cool     02/23/2012 00:13
Cool to see a TR from Culebra in winter. I believe this means Furthermore is a


Nice!     02/23/2012 01:21
Well done, great pics and looks like it was a fabulous day!


nice write up     02/23/2012 01:51
Hi Brad, Thanks for the nice write up and pictures. I was the one who you saw as you were descending towards Red and I had just returned. Although I can't specifically remember it, I will take your word that I was maligning the climb back up to the summit of Culebra. I was pooped after that day. But what a day! John.


Brad,     02/23/2012 04:28
Thanks for putting this together. It was a fun day and I really enjoyed getting out. The weather was amazing for a solid finish.

Don't forget to mention that Steve (Marmot72) and John (ortegajv) also finished their 14ers on Culebra!


Amazing day!     02/23/2012 04:39
It was worth every bit of the $200 . I'm going back and spend another $100 to get Red. I would like to see it in the summer. The ranch did take very good care of us. Thank You again Brad for all your efforts setting up this trip. And the extra time writing the trip report.
It was an amazing day!


Congratulations on 14er Finishers     02/23/2012 14:37
took you long enough Furthermore geez you are slow


Congrats!     02/23/2012 15:35
Nice work putting this together Brad. Much respect.

Derek, Steve, and John, congrats on the finisher.

John and Molly - sounds like you had a great trip. May join you for Red this summer.

Chicago Transplant

Congrats     02/23/2012 17:03
Congrats to all of you, and a special bonus congrats to the 3 14er finishers

Carlos is awesome. I have been on the ranch 3 times now, including a trip last year for the 13ers north of Culebra that Carlos actually shuttled our cars between trailheads for us so we could run the ridge. 1st class service all the way!


Nice Trip...     03/01/2012 15:03
I wish Carlos would have packed the road for our trip. I remember some serious trail breaking. Winter is a good way to make Culebra interesting. And I agree about the fee, worth it. Hell it costs $100 just to buy a lift ticket at an over crowded mountain these days.


Thank you!     04/01/2012 15:55
Hey Brad, I finally got my act together and got my profile set up on here . I wanted to thank you for organizing such a great trip and it was great to meet you. Thanks for writing such a great trip report too. Thanks to you I have one winter 14er under my belt! Hope to see you this summer .

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